WMU News

WMU's College of Aviation to manage Romeo Airport for MDOT

Aug. 12, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Members of the general aviation community in Southeast Michigan will have access to world-class flight instruction and aircraft maintenance, thanks to an innovative new partnership agreement between the Michigan Department of Transportation and Western Michigan University.

The University's internationally-known College of Aviation will take over management of the Romeo Airport, effective immediately, under terms of the new partnership between WMU and MDOT's Bureau of Aeronautics. The move will result in increased services at the airport, increased opportunities for WMU aviation students, and economical and efficient management of the facility, which has been under MDOT control since November 1998. The airport is located on 32 Mile Road west of Romeo Plank Road in northwest Macomb County.

The agreement reached in July is a two-month interim contract effective through Sept. 30, 1999, the end of the state's current fiscal year. The University and MDOT will negotiate a two-year agreement to go into effect on Oct. 1, which will coincide with the state's fiscal year. Funding for the project was part of the state transportation budget signed in July by Gov. John Engler. The one-time state funding of $165,000 will be used for start-up costs, which include allocation of personnel to the Romeo site.

"This partnership is truly a win-win development for MDOT, WMU and users of Michigan's air transportation system," says William E. Gehman, deputy director for MDOT's Bureau of Aeronautics. "This is an exciting opportunity to merge two of our highest priorities--airport preservation and aviation education. MDOT and WMU have a long history of innovative partnering for the advancement of aviation in the state."

The College of Aviation will provide a professional, full-time manager who will supervise two student intern airport managers per semester. The students will be upper-level students in the college's operations management degree program. Acting under supervision of professional staff, the student interns will also assist in aircraft maintenance and flight instruction. The college intends to provide a full-time aircraft mechanic to provide maintenance services for local pilots and has dedicated a Cessna 172P aircraft and a professional flight instructor to the facility as well.

"There is a huge demand for flight instruction for the general public and its been some time since it's been available at that facility," says Mark A. Serbenski, director of operations for WMU's College of Aviation who will oversee the college's activities at the Romeo site. "That's just one of the services that we're looking forward to providing to the public in Southeast Michigan."

Among other services that will be offered to the public will be the lease and/or sale of hangar space, fuel and pilot supplies for local aviators and those passing through the area. The bureau and college anticipate that revenue from services offered at the airport will cover future capital improvements and expansion needs as well as operational expenses that will be covered for the first two years by the start-up funding that has been allocated.

The bureau took over management of the Romeo airport following the state's purchase of the airport in November 1998. The airport, which dates back to 1935, has three paved runways and 100 aircraft are based there. About 24,000 landings and takeoffs are recorded there annually.

Shortly after purchasing the property, the bureau began examining ways to enhance operations at the facility and effectively provide for day-to-day management. Negotiations with WMU were stepped up recently when it was determined that the partnership could provide both top-notch management and unparalleled opportunities for students to get practical experience in the management of a small, regional, non-commercial airport. The arrangement is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

WMU has been offering aviation education since 1939. Its College of Aviation offers four undergraduate degree programs to some 600 undergraduate students at the college's W.K. Kellogg Airport facilities in Battle Creek. The college is the home of the Sky Broncos competitive flight team, which won the 1998 national championship and has placed among the top three schools in the nation for eight consecutive years at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association annual competition.

The college also is home to an International Pilot Training Centre which currently has training contracts with international air carriers British Airways, Aer Lingus and Emirates Airlines.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, WMU University Relations, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu or Bob Parsons, MDOT Communication Office, 517 373-2160; PARSONSB@mdot.state.mi.us

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
616 387-8400